Monday, May 3, 2010

Driving Innovation - IRI's Architect of Choice

At least one of Don’s clients was an entrepreneur and a visionary. John Malec and two other investors mortgaged their homes and started a new venture in 1979 and named their firm, Information Resources, Inc.

Today, IRI is one of the leading market research firms in the U.S., if not the world. Its’ competitor, The Nielsen Company, initially ignored the budding firm but bolstered by investments from the likes of Procter & Gamble, and a team of driven individuals, IRI was responsible for cutting into Nielsen’s market share and causing the dominant firm to stand up, take notice, and change the course of its own direction. The two firms found themselves in guerilla warfare for years, ambushing each other with innovative products which benefitted their clients, leading manufacturers of packaged-goods for consumers.

As quoted from the “Chicago Tribune:”

"IRI, a Chicago company that for 25 years has challenged ACNielsen for supremacy in the consumer market research arena. . .was an incubator for fresh ideas and the kind of people who could generate them.” Chicago Tribune, January 21, 2005.

Given IRI’s beginnings, it was fitting that John Malec, CEO, chose an innovative architect to select and build IRI’s new Chicago headquarters in 1982. Don and Mr. Malec selected an existing brick building to call as IRI’s new home, a building immediately across from the Chicago Northwestern train station, in a neighborhood on the fringe but “up and coming.”

The building was gutted, but the existing beams were left exposed and incorporated into the remodeling. Don designed an entranceway to the building that distinctively marked the new headquarters and invited visitors into a quiet environment which bespoke of the confidence of the firm, while hiding the bustling employee offices beyond where creative minds spun out new ideas and a team of dedicated, hard-working people set about the task of serving IRI’s clients.

The top floor of the building features an employee lunch room with skylights and a rectangular brick fountain which silences the noise of clattering plates and tongues.

Don was the architect of choice for other leaders at IRI, including Gian Fulgoni who assumed the CEO role when John left IRI to create other new ventures. Gian is the current owner of a home influenced by Don.

And, while IRI has experienced significant ownership and personnel changes since its creation in 1979, its new owner, Symphony Technology Group still calls the headquarters at 150 N. Clinton Avenue in Chicago “home.” The building fosters the spirit of the firm, that of continued innovation.

Please contact me, or provide comments on this page, if you would like to submit information that you may have on the work and/or its history. And, if you would like to contribute to championing the preservation of the Don Erickson Legacy, please email me at the address posted under my profile.

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